Bit late, but I felt like writing something and I've been replaying it recently, sooo...
METAL GEAR RISING: REVENGEANCE
It’s Metal Gear meets Devil May Cry meets… Wii Sports Resort?
Metal Gear Rising Revengeance is an odd one, and it it begins right with the name. Revengeance. It’s a word that shouldn’t even exist, a Frankenstein’s abomination of words fused together by the geniuses at Platinum games and you know what? It’s perfectly appropriate. Metal Gear Rising is an almost-perfect blending of the whackiness and political intrigue of the more traditional Metal Gear Solid games, with the fast paced finger-numbing action that only a high-octane hack and slash game can bring. I say it’s an almost perfect blending because Metal Gear Rising definitely has its fair share of issues holding it back, ranging from story elements to gameplay features that could have been polished but we’ll cross (or cut) that bridge when we come to it.
Originally conceived as Metal Gear Solid Rising back in 2009 and under development by Kojima Productions, the game went through many changes over the course of its rocky development. Beginning its life as an entry set between the events of Metal Gear Solid 2:Sons of Liberty and Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots, Metal Gear Solid Rising: Lightning Bolt Action would have portrayed the story of how Raiden rescued the daughter of one of the main characters of Sons of Liberty and received his cyborg body, both featuring in Guns of the Patriots. Trailers were released, showcasing the Raiden’s new robo-look and some snippets of gameplay, featuring Raiden zipping about with his sword, cutting up enemies with the game’s very own precise-cutting mechanic, blade mode. Fans were intrigued, they hadn’t seen a Metal Gear game like this before.
Unfortunately, in addition to being intrigued they would also have to be patient and eventually even disappointed as the game’s troubled development eventually caught up with it and Kojima was forced to quietly cancel the project. Not all was lost, however. Some traces of life still remained, and it was in the warm, experienced embrace of Platinum games that the game was able to rise from its nanomachine-induced coma and be reborn as Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance, and this is where we find ourselves today- er, 5 years later.
Metal Gear Rising is a hack ‘n’ slash through and through. You’ll find yourself surrounded by groups of enemies, dodging and parrying attacks before cutting through them with your sword like a bloody whirlwind. For the majority of the game’s somewhat short length you’ll be sprinting through the levels, engaging in combat with the various cyborg enemies that stand in your way, with the occasional quick time event or six. Those familiar with the tried and true Devil May Cry formula of a hack and slash move set will feel right at home here. You’ve got your Stinger for quickly closing the gap between you and the foe, combos performed by delaying certain button presses and various aerial and launch moves.
The combat itself feels smooth enough to be highly rewarding if you can master its somewhat obscure and unwieldy nuances such as the parry system and clunky weapon switching. Metal Gear Rising is all about hype and being as over the top as possible. Did you think fighting the Metal Gear RAY mechs in Sons of Liberty was hard? Well, Rising kicks it up about 60 notches by pitting you against one as the very first boss. While Sons of Liberty had Raiden fighting them methodically, gradually wearing them down with rockets and grenades, Rising has Raiden picking it up, flinging it into the air and slicing it in half with all the bombastic spectacle of a new Nintendo console on launch night.
Metal Gear Rising’s most notable feature is its much-tauted ‘Blade Mode’ mechanic, in which time is slowed down, putting you in a state similar to ‘bullet time’. For as long as his fuel gauge lasts, Raiden is able to line up his sword and cut enemies and objects with extreme precision. It can be difficult to master the accurate cutting lines at first, especially with limited gauges but after purchasing a couple of upgrades you’ll find yourself slicing with ease. A successful blade mode sequence usually ends with Raiden reaching into the innards of his foe and tearing out their robotic spinal cord with a technique called ‘Zandatsu’, appropriately translating to ‘cut and take’. Upon successfully performing a Zandatsu, Raiden’s health and fuel gauges will be completely restored, so it’s worth performing as many as you can. It’s things like this that really make Metal Gear Rising stand out as a hack ‘n’ slash action game. Its combos and evasive mechanics may not be as stylish (heh) and polished as something like Devil May Cry, but with blade mode’s freedom of sharp experimentation and performing Zandatsus never quite getting old, there’s enough to keep you entertained and engaged enough for a couple of replays.
The story is a bit of a rollercoaster, which is nothing new for the Metal Gear franchise. It’s quite all over the place with some truly bizarre shifts from dark plot threads involving children’s brains being harvested and used for war, to the final boss of the game literally punting Raiden like a football (with accompanying crowd cheering coming from nowhere). While the main plot is nothing to write home about, the boss fights with their accompanying soundtracks and cutscenes make up for it with their over the top ham and cheese spectacle made possible by the unholy pairing of Kojima and Platinum. Scenes such as Raiden awakening his ‘Jack the Ripper’ mode are peppered with memorable quotes and deliciously gory and over the top visuals, despite the fact that it mainly just serves as a purpose of giving Raiden a new powered-up mode to play with. It’s ultimately a series of scenes featuring characters that have to make their impact and boss fight work in the few (sometimes) only scenes they’re in. Characters like Monsoon and Mistral only appear (and are defeated) in one scene each, with fun, if brief appearances.
The game’s soundtrack is worth mentioning, as my favorite part of the game next to Blade Mode. Each boss has its own unique theme, with each track having a rock feel, but lyrics appropriate to the fight. The interesting part is that the lyrics actually change depending on what part of the fight you’re on, with new verses being added as it grows more intense and closer to the climax. During the final battle, there’s times when you lose your weapon and the lyrics disappear as your sword leaves your hand, only picking up again when you do the same to the blade. It’s another feature that can really make the boss fights even more memorable, especially if it’s timed well with certain parts of the song.
IN THE END (It doesn't even matter...)
As I’ve already said, Metal Gear Rising is an odd one. It’s taken a Hollywood-inspired, story heavy political action-drama and turned it into a Japanese R-rated Saturday Morning cartoon that somehow still manages to work as part of the series. The fanbase was pretty divided on Rising, and it’s not hard to see why. Some vocal fans hated the hack and slash gameplay that ditched the tactical espionage sneaking missions of the older games in favour of a faster paced button mashing adventure, while others appreciated the fresh new take on the series and the experience it brought. With bland level design, clunky weapon switching mechanics, a messy story and obtuse combat tutorials, Rising certainly isn’t a perfect game and it could have benefitted from more polish. What it does right, though, it does oh so right. Blade Mode and the resulting Zandatsu is always fun to use, especially when you unlock the ability to perform it indefinitely later on. The boss fights are enjoyable on the higher difficulties especially, where you’re forced to play far more aggressively and fast to keep up a higher damage output while avoiding blows yourself, as all action games should be. A truly good action game to me is one that is enjoyable on the surface, but with plenty of wriggle room underneath to experiment with more of what the game has to offer. It keeps the experience fresh on replays, while you’re learning all sorts of new combos and tactics to play around with. The fact that people are still making DMC combo videos years after its release is a testament to that. While Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance doesn’t quite achieve the same level of depth and style as its more venerable Capcom compatriots, it’s still a solid action game that’s a lot of fun to play and should keep you coming back for at least two or three more runs. It’s rough around the edges, but this metal is most definitely solid.